In Conversation with Paweł Soluch: Discussing Therapeutic Technology in Neurology

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Author: Sara Rachel Shajee Edited by: Ruchi Maniar

Mr Paweł Soluch is the CEO of the Neuro Device Group, a company that has built a strong portfolio of biomedical products to address demand in the scientific market for new equipment and to attempt to solve ideologies where research has otherwise failed. Mr Soluch came up with this idea after encountering and being discouraged by Poland’s health care system. He decided to introduce neuromarketing studies to the market and invest this capital into the development of innovative solutions that would help patients with permanent central nervous system damage. Apart from his feat as a CEO, Mr. Paweł is also a neuropsychologist, an employee of the Medical University of Warsaw, a scientist, an influencer and a medtech inventor.

From an early stage in his professional career, he was very interested in biology. This interest later on contributed to his increasing and extensive knowledge of the nervous system and genetics. While studying neuropsychology at the Medical University of Warsaw, Mr Soluch took part in classes at the faculty of medicine, among others in anatomy and neurology, under the direction of his mentor,  Professor Danuta Kądzielawa. After his second year of studies, he started his internship at the academic hospital where he stayed for the next seven years. While completing the last two years of his studies, Mr Soluch followed an individualised learning pathway which allowed him to work at the hospital simultaneously.

As an eager student he received two grants for research projects totalling to nearly 2.5million PLN, amongst others. This was for his work to examine the method he developed of precisely determining brain anatomy in functional terms, in patients before brain tumour resection. He started to work at the operating theatre where his method of patient's diagnosis was implemented.

In 2008, after witnessing the poor conditions in Poland’s health care system, Mr Paweł had an idea of developing his own business: his initial plan was to design and introduce neuromarketing studies to the market and invest these funds into the advancement of solutions that could help patients with permanent central nervous system damage, for example, those suffering from paralysis.

However, it turned out that the market in Poland was not ready for neuromarketing despite the existence of considerable gaps in the market relating to the scope of modern diagnostic neuro-devices.  Thus, Mr Soluch started to import the best world solutions in this area to Poland and distribute them there, simultaneously evangelising the market, teaching and showing what tests can be performed and what tools are already available on the market.

In terms of innovations that have significantly contributed to the success of the Neuro Device Group, the medtech inventor greatly acknowledged fMRI and the knowledge of the great breakthrough in the overall brain diagnosis he gained from this. He was associated with an informal fMRI.pl group which was working on functional methods of magnetic resonance, brain mapping and knowledge on functional areas, allowing him to gain a new perspective on neuromarketing ideas. Understanding how the brain functions is something the scientist and his team acknowledge they are baffled by, including how these structures are exactly interlinked and how important individual elements are. Nonetheless, they believe that they are much closer to realising key theories than ever before.

Another breakthrough that Mr Soluch mentioned that he believes is still underestimated today, is the NIRS (near-infrared spectroscopy), i.e. the transcranial method of brain performance testing and neuromodulation, a technique the neuropsychologist believes has great potential. Mr. Soluch expressed considerable confidence in the idea that neuromodulation is the subject to accompany Neuro Device for several years to come. 

Contemporary medical science is only about 100 years old, and even now, many methods although used for years, are not perfect and require several years to thoroughly evaluate. Nonetheless, the medtech inventor is able to foresee a large potential in resolutions coupled with therapeutic technology. Mr Soluch gave the example of IBM that has taken an excellent direction: their Watson Health platform along with its children solutions can essentially support clinicians and use it’s artificial intelligence platform to manage population health (1). Mr Soluch furthermore recognised the integration of smart watches into healthcare, where apps can now monitor physical activity and calculate breathing rates which will eventually translate into healthcare effectiveness. These type of technologies have the prospective of being indispensable even in large geographical areas, e.g. Australia, where access to the physician/the patient can be limited by landscape. The Neuro Device Group is supportive of this new technological advance, and is investing in a number of start-ups and healthcare collaborations that can supply patients’ homes with various bio-devices.  Note that that on the other hand, these devices are at risk of recording false or imprecise measurements, posing the risk of generating considerable stress for patients. Therefore, it is essential to approach such solutions in a very responsible way.

During his interview, Mr Soluch briefly elaborated some technology-based tools that Neuro Device has devised that can be applied to the current healthcare system be used for therapy. Activities of his company are strongly related to so-called market evangelizing; where new opportunities and possibilities are introduced. This is more relating to equipment with the potential of transfer for clinical applications than that applications that are ready to be applied to healthcare. For example, one of the research group’s products is called Tactile Stimulator, a device that has been pursued by several hospitals worldwide. His team use it for brain plasticity tests and for determining the regions associated with feelings. Neurosurgeons can use this stimulator for precise location of sensory centres before cranial surgery and tumour resection, and precisely move between these areas to avoid resecting unaffected tissue. As a consequence, patients are able to recover after neurosurgery with minimum effect, with the possibility of being able to plan their convalescence better.

The Olfactometer is another achievement Mr Soluch’s group has achieved, with a probable application in primary healthcare and diagnosis of patients with degeneration diseases.  Disorders related to the sense of smell are often the first symptom which may suggest that some disease of this spectrum is developing, for example anosmia in Parkinson’s disease (2). The Neuro Device Olfactometer can be connected to other devices and as such can be used to visualise a human’s reaction to external stimuli, such as emotions, size of pupils and breathing rate.

Also, another product called the MR Camera was developed keeping clinicians in mind, and for scientists, it is useful for patient observations while performing tasks during the fMRI tests. However, in Mr Soluch’s point of view, it is aimed at providing comfort to patients during the test, or allowing parents observation of their child in the scanner.

With regards to future of such innovations, Mr Soluch mentions that these technologies solely rely on screening tests, frequent measurements, and constant analysing and monitoring of various health parameters. Nevertheless and as a matter of fact, there are many diseases that make a one-size-fits-all therapy useless, such as obesity, Mr Paweł envisions - from a professional point of view - that in the future, stimulation of the appetite centre in the brain may be possible which will translate into the patient sensing a reduction in the feeling of hunger. On the other hand, he also shares the opinion of simply starting to care for ourselves, eat healthier and exercise, which would be the real revolution.

When it comes to entrepreneurship, a scientist, in Mr Soluch’s opinion, should be sure that he is ready to move from the world of science to the world of business, otherwise his business venture may be unsuccessful. It is a difficult decision but Mr Solcuh hopes that his example will inspire and encourage others. The first years of his education and work fell to the times when access to modern equipment and technologies was very problematic. Since the beginning of the existence of Neuro Device, the scientist ensured he made his equipment available to young scientists totally free of charge, to encourage creativity and entrepreneurship. Some inventions such as the Eyetrackers are also made available to young lawyers for their studies. For six years, his company has been an organiser of the Polish Eyetracking Conference where they rely on young scientists. Neuro Device is also getting ready to organise the brainathon - a hackathon dedicated to solutions in the scope of neuromodulation.

Thus, entrepreneurs like Paweł Soluch are definitely an inspiration for the youth, and will actively encourage young scientists to embrace entrepreneurships and gain awareness of the current digital health scene in the years to come.

References

1. IBM Watson Health - Cognitive Healthcare Solutions [Internet]. IBM Watson Health. 2017 [cited 11 December 2017]. Available from: https://www.ibm.com/watson/health/

2. Hawkes C. Diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson's disease. BMJ [Internet]. 1995 [cited 11 December 2017];310(6995):1668-1668. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2550023/pdf/bmj00598-0056a.pdf